Should I take a stand on public matters that are political when I am a church? This is a question, in various forms, asked of me in the last month. Many pastors are challenged by the issues of our day. Should stances be made in the public square, kept private, or avoided? Clearly, the avoidance answer got us to where we are today. Keeping private, I’d submit, is pragmatically avoidance. This leaves the answer of needing to engage publicly, but how? To answer this I want suggest areas of repentance. In another post I will suggest ways to move forward. To move forward, there are things we must first put off.
Repentant issue #1: Stop intellectual apathy
Sacrificing philosophy and theology for practical Christianity left the church practically defenseless in one of the biggest philosophical battles of our time. Biblical literacy is at an all time low, political animosity is at an all time high. Many in clergy do not know how to think. The heroes heralded are more personalities than men of character and thought. The Bible strongly teaches the importance of wisdom and discernment. This requires a well developed mind. Warnings of developing the life of the mind existed for the last 30 years at least. We ignored them. Grow your mind. Repent of walking as unwise, not as wise. Such is the main idea that leads to being filled spiritually.
Repentant issue #2: Stop looking for Jesus on every page of the Old Testament
The Bible is incredibly rich and speaks to life with great robustness on matters other than just salvation. While Jesus is the hero of the Bible, He is not the only point the Bible makes. By trying to find Jesus behind every page we miss two critical things in the Old Testament: 1) We miss that God the Father is the main player. 2) We miss the other issues the Old Testament teaches, such as God’s view of government and nationhood. Some people have foolishly written off the Old Testament. The Old Testament is a metaphorical goldmine to help us navigate todays issues, if we move beyond moralizing or Jesus hunting.
(Because I know it will be brought up, Jesus is frequently referred to in many ways in the Old Testament, but the point of every passage is not Jesus. The others of the trinity are there too.)
Repentant issue #3: Stop the apathetic escapism
Throwing our hands up because it will all burn and Christ will come back to make it new does not help. Hunkering down in fear while waiting for the rapture does not help. Jesus’ parable about the minas speaks to this. The one who who hid his one coin was called a worthless servant. The point is God expects a return on His investment in our life. This is beyond just making disciples of Jesus, but on how those disciples engage their communities. We need to stop being afraid and ignoring what is going on around us. Regardless of your view on the end times, hunkering down in fear is antithetical to Scripture.
Repentant issue #4: Avoiding politics
The Bible speaks to politics. The above is the foundation for this point of repentance. God is not silent on how He wants governments to operate. God is not silent on how He judges nations. God redeems nations, as we see in Revelation, and thus entirely fulling his promise to Abraham to bless many nations. Christ will bring the ultimate fulfillment of that promise. In the meantime, the Bible gives instruction and guidance on how to engage for the betterment of our cities. It shows us how to navigate our lives when government goes beyond God’s intended role for government. People tend to view empires as beautiful (the statue vision in Daniel), where as God views such as hideous (the beasts vision in Daniel). While we must live with discernment and prudence, we must call out the idols and sin of our age, including government.
The bottom line:
Much of the problems with politics of late is due to the gross lack of pastors developing a biblical theology of politics. Frankly, as pastors we failed in this area. By avoiding politics we left our congregations ill-equipped to navigate the world we are in. Pastors need to repent of not speaking to what the Bible speaks to. While the Gospel is first and central, it must impact every area of life. For when we were saved we did not just believe God rose Jesus from the dead. When we were saved we confused with our mouth that Jesus is Lord.